ROADS

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Debut Fiction -

War is al­ways an agent of change, but never more so than for school­mates Filip and Galina. It’s World War II, and, to pro­tect Filip from be­ing drafted, Galina agrees to marry him when he turns eigh­teen. Ma­rina An­tropow Cramer’s Roads fol­lows the evo­lu­tion of this Rus­sian fam­ily in Yalta from the brink of the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion to the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of World War II and asks what roads peo­ple will walk down to sur­vive.

Filip and Galina’s pre­cip­i­tous de­ci­sion pulls Filip from his com­fort­able po­si­tion as the only child of a well-to-do Party fam­ily into the house­hold of his peas­ant wife. As the war en­ters its nadir, the fam­ily, des­per­ate to sur­vive, vol­un­teers for re­lo­ca­tion to Ger­many as farm­ers. In tran­sit, they dis­cover they’ve been tricked. They sur­vive forced la­bor camps only to end up as po­lit­i­cal refugees, per­ceived as a threat by Ger­mans and Sovi­ets alike. Barely able to make a life in post­war Ger­many yet equally un­able to go home, the long road through the war leads this fam­ily to un­ex­pected places.

The role of sta­tus and priv­i­lege looms obliquely through­out the novel, es­pe­cially as the fam­ily is pushed fur­ther and fur­ther to the mar­gins of so­ci­ety. Cramer ex­plores the dy­nam­ics of priv­i­lege in in­ter­est­ing ways, but nowhere as dra­mat­i­cally as in the var­i­ous char­ac­ters’ re­ac­tion to their chang­ing cir­cum­stances dur­ing this pe­riod of mas­sive up­heaval. With more than apt char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, Cramer ex­plores char­ac­ters’ adapt­abil­ity as so­cial cri­tique.

Roads is a sub­tle in­ves­ti­ga­tion of war and ev­ery­day peo­ple strug­gling to find refuge. In the case of Filip, Galina, and the fam­ily that forms around them, Cramer deftly il­lus­trates the price ordinary cit­i­zens pay once the war ma­chine is in mo­tion. When the res­o­lu­tion is reached, it hov­ers, a ten­u­ous mo­ment that leaves some char­ac­ters with new strength and oth­ers poised to plum­met and break.

Ma­rina An­tropow Cramer, Academy Chicago Pub­lish­ers Soft­cover $15.99 (352pp), 978-1-61373-556-5

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